PowerToFly: How It Works and Makes Money

Technology veterans Katharine Zaleski, a former manager at The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, and Milena Berry, the former chief technology officer at Avaaz, founded PowerToFly in August 2014.

The company is an online hiring platform for women who want to work remotely. Similar to the founders, many of the women on the platform are mothers. The platform also caters to digital nomads, a term for professionals who desire the flexibility of being able to work from a variety of locations. The goal of PowerToFly goal is to bridge the gap between companies seeking more diversity and female talent who do not want their careers to be constrained by their locations or family responsibilities. Over 50,000 women have profiles on the site.

Key Takeaways

  • Technology veterans Katharine Zaleski and Milena Berry founded PowerToFly in August 2014.
  • The goal of PowerToFly goal is to bridge the gap between companies seeking more diversity and female talent who do not want their careers to be constrained by their locations or family responsibilities.
  • High-tech companies are known for demanding extremely long hours and for being dominated by males.
  • PowerToFly founders Berry and Zaleski realized that plenty of women have the right skills and degrees for success in high tech, but the workplace is not meeting their needs for flexible hours and locations.
  • PowerToFly charges a fee to a company that hires someone from its website and also charges an ongoing percentage of the salary that is paid to the employee.

Labor Force Participation Rate for Women Is Down

In 1971, the workforce participation rate for all women was 43.2%. This rose steadily through the 1980s and 1990s, reaching a high of 60% in 2000. By 2014, in the aftermath of the great recession, it had declined to 57%.

More recently, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the latest jobs report, in January, 275,000 women dropped out of the labor force, accounting for nearly 80% of all workers over the age of 20 who left the workforce in January 2021.

Between February 2020 and January 2021, more than 2.3 million women have left the labor force, compared to 1.8 million men who have left the labor force during this same time period. Labor force participation for women dropped to 56.1% in March 2021. (In February 2020, it was 57.8%.)

Few Women in Technology

High-tech companies are known for demanding extremely long hours and for being dominated by males. While some Silicon Valley companies have family-friendly policies such as paid maternity and paternity leave, most are not known for welcoming women in general and mothers in particular.

PowerToFly founders Berry and Zaleski realized that plenty of women have the right skills and degrees for success in high tech, but the workplace is not meeting their needs for flexible hours and locations. Many women in their 30s exit the workforce—and have trouble returning to it later—when they have children and need to balance competing demands on their time.

Berry and Zaleski founded the company to match employers looking for highly skilled individuals with women, mostly mothers, who can fill those jobs but can't or don't want to work in the quasi college-campus environment that characterizes many high-tech companies. They have built a client base that includes The Washington Post, Time Inc., BuzzFeed, RebelMouse, and Hearst.

Individuals seeking employment, whether full or part-time, are referred to as candidates. They are based all over the world, including parts of the Middle East, where it can be difficult for any woman to work outside the home.

Starting PowerToFly

PowerToFly raised its initial $1 million of seed money in July 2014 from New York-based Lerer Hippeau Ventures. This was followed by Series A Financing in June 2015 for an additional $6.5 million ($7.5 million in total funding). Lerer Hippeau participated again, along with other investors such as Hearst Ventures and Crosslink Capital. (Hearst Communications Inc. is a PowerToFly Client.) The company launched its website, PowerToFly.com, in July 2015.

How PowerToFly Makes Money

PowerToFly charges a fee to a company that hires someone from its website and also charges an ongoing percentage of the salary that is paid to the employee. All fees are paid by the hiring company; there are no fees or charges to candidates. The terms of PowerToFly payments are set forth in the Terms section of its website.

Companies can hire a U.S.-based candidate either as an employee or as an independent contractor. Candidates outside the United States can only be hired as independent contractors.

In the first 10 months of the company's operations, it attracted nearly 1,000 companies and processed about $2.5 million in payments to female workers in 93 countries.

Power to Disrupt

PowerToFly has the potential to change the way headhunters do business because its website-based approach provides far more transparency on who is looking for work and which companies are hiring. It may also impact the extent to which high-tech businesses are male-dominated, not simply because of the women it places in jobs, but because it demonstrates that high-quality female candidates abound. It has the potential to impact the ability of women to obtain meaningful, paid work in areas of the world where educational opportunities have outpaced job opportunities, such as Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

Article Sources

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